We hankered for a plate of Italian pot roast made with tri-tip and served over penne pasta, but our server at Evan’s Kitchen explained that a catering gig had depleted the restaurant’s supply.
We weren’t in the mood for the lunch special, since it wasn’t the signature blackened prime rib sandwich with chipotle aioli, but not to worry: The combined breakfast-lunch menu has about 100 offerings, so we had no problem finding something to eat, beginning with splendid clam chowder and overly sweet French onion soup.
Lunch pal and professional photographer Tia Gemmell of Riverview Media Photography and I were in a booth, cruising menus that went on and on ($4.25 to $14.25). Let’s see … nine Benedicts, nine omelets, six “hearty breakfasts” (including chicken fried steak and vegetarian frittata), and that’s merely scratching the breakfast surface. For lunch, consider eight salads, eight burgers, 15 sandwiches, six entrees, six pastas, side dishes. … Let’s not even think about the dinner menu, except to say the rack of lamb is finished with pinot noir beurre noir.
Evan Elsberry opened his restaurant in 2004, inheriting a roomful of clunky wooden chairs from the 1960s and 1970s that made lexicographers scramble to find new definitions for the word “decor,” and not in a good way. A handsome remodel earlier this year brought in new chairs, tables and walls and centerpiece banquette seating. Evan’s hosts a series of wine dinners, matching seasonal and ethnic foods with appropriate vinos. The next one is in November, the details TBA.
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Elsberry has been cooking around town for more than three decades and has a slew of ribbons from many California State Fair Professional Chef Challenges. “Now I’m judging,” he said on the phone the other day. “I just helped judge a rib contest at the Club 2 Me. Being a judge is kind of fun, you can’t be wrong.”
About those massive menus ... “They started out smaller; then I added things,” he said. “I use a lot of the same ingredients for different dishes. (For example) prosciutto isn’t in just one dish, it’s in six dishes. Then, if I take an item off the menu, people freak out, and I have to put it back on. I took my salmon off and almost got crucified.”
Evan’s Kitchen has been farm-to-plate long before the concept was marketed in Sacramento. “I don’t buy anything frozen unless it’s a couple of thing that are better than I can produce, such as lobster ravioli,” he said. “There’s no reason not to have fresh ingredients.”
Back at our booth, Tia and I cleared the table for the arrival of a heaping trio. Yadi’s Southwestern eggs Benedict is two perfectly poached eggs on corncakes layered with roasted pasillo chili, the whole covered with chipotle Hollandaise sauce, served with crispy-creamy roasted potatoes. “I love that the egg yolks aren’t running all over the plate,” she said.
Salad seemed a non-overindulgent segue, until a pile of garden-fresh spring greens showed up bearing the weight of grilled prawns, tender scallops and succulent salmon, decorated with mandarin segments and a scattering of pine nuts. The finishing touch was an avocado that had been whittled into a shape resembling an artichoke. The overall effect was “very artsy and colorful,” Tia said. “I would order this again in a heartbeat.” Me, too.
Finally, we took on a tender and moist pan-seared chicken breast that got its flavor from simmering in sherry and apricots, further enhanced with shallots, basil and ginger. It’s for diners who like their entrees on the sweet side.
One more thing: Though Evan’s Kitchen is famous for its $19 three-course prime rib dinner Wednesdays through Fridays, get there early for the Sunday brunch. The term “lines out the door” isn’t hyperbole.
Where: 855 57th St., Sacramento, in Antique Row
Hours: Breakfast 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; lunch 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; dinner 5-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays.
Ambiance: ☆☆ 1/2
How much: $$
Information: 916-452-3896, www.chefevan.com